Canadian sailor commands counter-terrorism task force

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Crowsnest - Winter 2017 / February 1, 2017

By Darlene Blakeley

For the second time in two years a Canadian naval officer has taken command of Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150), a counter-terrorism task force headquartered in Manama, Bahrain.

Commodore Haydn C. Edmundson officially assumed command of CTF 150 on behalf of Canada during a change of command ceremony in December, taking over from Cmdre Bilal Abdul Nasir of the Pakistan Navy.

CTF 150 is one of three task forces under Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), a multinational naval partnership that promotes security, stability and prosperity across approximately 3.2 million square miles of international waters, encompassing some of the world’s most important shipping lanes. All 31 partner nations participate voluntarily.

The deployment is part of Operation Artemis, the Canadian Armed Forces’ (CAF) ongoing contribution to counter-terrorism and maritime security operations across the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman.

“I am honoured and privileged to command this task force and to work alongside our maritime security partners in the wider region over the next four months,” says Cmdre Edmundson. “During Canada’s command of CTF 150 we will contribute to broader efforts in the region by suppressing terrorist activity through denying terrorist organizations the use of maritime routes to smuggle illicit cargo. This will be accomplished by commanding the ships and personnel of partner nations assigned to CTF 150.”

Canada has commanded CTF 150 on two other occasions: once in 2008 and most recently from December 2014 to April 2015. In addition to these command periods, Canada has provided contingents in support of other countries. Recently, from December 2015 to April 2016, a Canadian contingent consisting of five officers and two non-commissioned members of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) was deployed as part of CTF 150, and five members of the RCN deployed to Bahrain to support CTF 150 from April to August 2016.

Working with Cmdre Edmundson in Bahrain are 28 CAF members and two civilians from the Department of National Defence (DND). In addition, there are eight personnel from the Royal Australian Navy working on the headquarters team, including the Deputy Commander, Captain (Navy) Paul Scott.

According to Cmdre Edmundson, Canada has a responsibility to its citizens, allies and partners to help safeguard the high seas. “This is why the CAF assists in the protection of international waters – to ensure that the legitimate global trade that we depend on for the global economy can proceed without the threat of terrorist activities,” he explains.

“Command of CTF 150 is also important as it demonstrates our willingness and ability to lead important missions with key allies and a range of regional partners. Partnering with like-minded countries provides an opportunity for the CAF to participate in multinational operations that further enhance interoperability and enables Canada to remain engaged in, and aware of, regional activities and challenges.”

Over the course of his four-month deployment, Cmdre Edmundson will be leading international teams conducting maritime security operations, including boarding of vessels and, where appropriate, seizing illicit cargo such as narcotics and weapons that is used to fund terrorist activities globally. “Our goal is to deter and deny these organizations the ability to enable their activities through the trafficking of illicit cargo,” he says.

In addition, DND/CAF is bringing a new capability to CMF that will allow it to share near real-time unclassified maritime domain awareness information with CMF partner nations. With this capability, CMF members will benefit from an improved understanding of the regional maritime traffic picture and the overall pattern of life on the high seas, thereby enhancing operations.

The new capability, called URSA, or Unclassified Remote-Sensing Situational Awareness, is a mobile, deployable unit that allows for the download of information directly from commercial satellites to a ground station located in Bahrain.

Additionally, Operation Artemis will conduct regional leader engagements and capacity building events alongside maritime security partners with a goal of enabling long-term security and stability in the region through enhanced maritime security capabilities that will address the challenge posed by terrorist networks.

Cmdre Edmundson brings a wealth of experience to his new position as Commander CTF 150. With over 30 years in the RCN, he has served in many ships throughout the world. He spent three years working with the U.S. Navy in San Diego, Calif., and also worked as second-in-command of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Calgary when it deployed to the Arabian Sea in support of Operation Apollo in 2003. In 2008, as Captain of HMCS Regina, he deployed to the Far East in support of U.S. Navy 7th Fleet and Global Affairs Canada engagements in the Asia-Pacific Region.

“In July 2011, I hung up my dress blues and donned desert tan camouflaged combats and deployed to Afghanistan for a year as part of Canada’s Operation Attention,” he says. “I am once again wearing desert tan camouflaged combats here in Bahrain, where I am proudly serving with my team of Canadians and Australians to counter terrorist organizations and their enablers.”

Like most sailors who must balance work and home life, Cmdre Edmundson is well aware of the load that families must bear while loved ones are deployed, especially over the holiday season.

“My family is very supportive of my career as a naval officer and understands the important work being done by the Government of Canada and members of the CAF in this important region of the world,” he says. “I am so very thankful for the amazing support from my entire family, who deserve much credit for their own dedication to our mission.”

Cmdre Edmundson will command CTF 150 until April.